Thursday 18 June 2020

Swavesey Memorial Hall

Swavesey Memorial Hall was built in 1919. It has a number of Swifts and House Sparrows breeding under open eaves. As part of the Over and Swavesey Swift Conservation project, we devised a way of adding more nest boxes on the gable.

The gable faces NW
The challenge is to do something that does not compromise the appearance of the building. The eaves of the gable are about 170mm wide and over 200mm deep, so there is plenty of space to hide some nest boxes out of sight.

4 double boxes
The design is a simple shoebox, installed sloping parallel to the eaves, but with a horizontal nest platform at the bottom of the slope. 4 double boxes were built, 2 for each side of the apex.

The slope is grooved to give the swifts some grip. The result is not unattractive and achieves the goal of preserving the appearance of the building.

The team was Bill Murrells, Bruce Martin and Dick Newell, with John Stimpson helping with minor adjustments.

8 nest chambers ready for Swifts or Sparrows

Design drawing

Wednesday 10 June 2020

A neat renovation in France

Some time ago, we sent some half-brick entrance pieces to Carolyn Knowlman ( for a project in Amboise. Following this, an opportunity arose during a renovation, where some existing swift nest sites were under threat.

Offcuts used to make entrances
Rather than use entrance pieces cast out of concrete, the stone mason used offcuts to make his own entrance pieces.

The nest sites inside were preserved with a very acceptable end result on this beautiful house.

House Sparrows have already moved in to two of the entrances, but it is not known yet if the Swifts have returned to the 2 nest sites that they previously occupied.

Before and after the renovation

Close up of an entrance piece

Another close up

Spot the boxes

Tuesday 2 June 2020

Eight S Bricks in 6 hours

Century House, Swavesey was reroofed 2 years ago. As a result a number of Swift nests were lost, and the roof was left in a state that Swifts could get into the roof space, resulting in some fatalities.

As part of the Over & Swavesey Swift Conservation Project, organised by Helen Pletts, it was decided to insert 8 S Bricks in the gable. It is a solid wall with no access inside, so everything had to be done from the outside. The bonding was somewhat irregular, so we had to make sure we chose stretchers to be removed which had a good chance of being aligned with the stretcher behind it. This was achieved by choosing stretchers adjacent to a header.

It was straightforward removing the outer stretcher, as the wall was constructed with soft lime mortar. In order to get hold of the inner stretcher, a handle was screwed into it to enable pulling it out. We had to be careful that nothing would fall onto the false ceiling inside.

Tailored S Bricks were made to fit this non-standard (Imperial) brick size. The backs of the boxes were coated in a layer of silvered insulation material to give some level of protection from heat from an uninsulated roof. For this project, the brick slips were  made by the Swavesey Sheddit group, a volunteer mental health workshop support project.

No other product on the market would have been practical in this situation.

The cherry picker was hired from Anglia High Access Ltd, who did a great job removing the bricks, with Bill Murrells, Action for Swifts, installing the S Bricks. From start to finish it took 6 hours

The project was funded by South Cambs District Council.

8 tailored S Bricks

8 bricks removed ready for 4 S Bricks

Bill Murrells fitting an S Brick

8 S Bricks installed

Overview shot